Howard University has already pushed its Spring 2022 semester more than a week to try to combat the on-campus spread of Omicron following the holidays.
Many HBCUs, including Howard, have already made it mandatory for students to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but the rise of Omicron has forced these institutions to take more steps to ensure the safety of students, faculty and community members.
Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College will continue their strict COVID protocols for the upcoming semester. Morehouse has even shifted to online schooling to begin the 2022 Spring semester.
The Atlanta University Center institutions have been able to keep their COVID rates lower than many other universities in the state of Georgia.
The Atlanta University Center Consortium’s online dashboard said its four schools administered more than 64,000 COVID-19 tests in the fall semester. Those tests resulted in 270 positive results for a 0.4% positive rate.
HBCUs are an interesting focal point when it comes to the pandemic because of the likelihood of spread on college campuses coupled with a historical distrust of vaccines in the Black community.
It’ll be fascinating to see how HBCUs navigate the pandemic with their students moving forward, especially amid the need for additional booster shots and the expectation of additional new variants popping up periodically.
Howard University said it was giving out booster shots on campus on Tuesday and Thursday in its nearby hospital.
“Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 will continue to occur. We know that individuals who have received a booster shot of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) have significantly more antibodies in their system than individuals who have not yet received booster shots and even more than those who are unvaccinated,” Howard University officials wrote late last month in a letter to their community. “The bottom line is that you are more protected if you are vaccinated.”
All students, faculty, and staff for the University who are eligible will be required to get boosted by January 31. The school said that its 19% positivity rate is the highest since the pandemic started for the school.
“At that rate, we would not have enough beds to quarantine positive students living in the residence halls, if students returned on the originally scheduled start date for the spring semester,” school officials added in the letter. “Our highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff… As we continue to navigate the pandemic, we are leveraging our collective knowledge and experience to adapt our community to the many changes in the virus and the pandemic.”
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Morehouse School of Medicine President Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice said during a town hall meeting in September that if the proper precautions are taken, then the institution can provide a place where students to excel and stay healthy.
“If we can mask, if we can do appropriate distancing, if we can become vaccinated, then we can create a safe environment for learning and working and contributing to the science,” Rice said.